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Robert Burns

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Robert Burns' statue in Leith

Robert Burns (25 Januar 1759 in Allowa, Ayrshire21 Julie 1796 in Dumfries), cried Robbie or Rabbie Burns forby, is the naitional poet o Scotland. He scrieved in Scots, wi some Inglis influence whiles.

He is weel-kent as the naitional makar o Scotland, an his wark is celebratit athort the warld. He is the best kent o the mony makars that haes wrocht in the Scots leid, tho he screived mony poems in Inglis forby, an in a kin o licht Scots that can be easy read by fowk nae sae acquent wi Scots, within an furth o Scotland.

Burns is aften regairdit as a pioneer o the Romantic Muivement, an efter his deith he becam a symbol an important springheid o inspiration tae the foonders o baith Leiberalism an Socialism. He haes become a cultural icon o Scotland, baith in Scotland itsel an amang Scots that haes flittit tae fremmit airts.

Forby his ain componings, Burns ingaithert fowk sangs frae athort Scotland, aften revisin or adaptin thaim. The best kent o thir is Auld Lang Syne that's sang at Hogmanay, an Scots Wha Hae, that haes been seen whiles as a national anthem for Scotland. Ithers poems an sangs o his that bide weel kent athort the warld the day includes A Red, Red Rose, A Man's a Man for A' That, To a Louse, To a Mouse, The Battle of Sherramuir an Ae Fond Kiss.

Early years

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Burns bi Alexander Reid, 'The best likeness o me e'er taen,' wrate Burns in Januar 1796


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Robert Burns wis born twa mile sooth o Ayr in Allowa, the auldest o seiven weans o William Burness (1721-1744) (Robert chynged the spellin o his name tae "Burns" in 1786), that wes a sel eddicated fermer frae Dunnottar an Agnes Broun (1732-1820), that wis the dochter o a fermer frae Kirkoswald.

Robert wis born intae a hoose that his faither haed biggit (nou the Burns Cottage Museum), qhaur he bydit intil Easter 1766, qhan he wis seiven year auld. William Burness selt the hoose an teuk the tenancy o the 70-acre Munt Oliphant ferm, sootheast o Allowa. Here Burns raxed up in puirtith an hairdskip, an the teuch haund wark o the ferm left traces in a premature stoup an a weakened constitution.

The young Burns haed but a tait o raiglar schuilin, an teuk muckle o his eddicatin frae his faither, that teachit his bairns readin, scrievan, arithmatic, geography an history, forby screivin fer thaim A Manual of Christian Belief. He wis learnt by John Murdoch an aw, that apent a schuil in Allowa in 1763 an learnt Laitin, French, an mathematics tae baith Robert an his brither Gilbert frae 1765 tae 1768 till Murdoch quat the pairish. Efter twa-thrie year o hame eddication Burns wis sent tae Dalrymple Parish Schuil durin the simmer o 1772, ere retourin at hairst time tae fou time ferm darg till 1773 qhan he wes sent tae wone wi Murdoch fer thrie week tae study grammar, French an Laitin.

By the eild o 15, Burns wes the heidmaist darger at Munt Oliphant. Durin the hairst o 1774 he wis assistit by Nelly Kilpatrick (1759-1820), that tiftit his first attempt at poesy, O, Once I Lov'd A Bonnie Lass. In the simmer o 1775 he wis sent tae feinish his eddication wi a tutor at Kirkowswald, qhaur he met wi Peggy Thomson, tae wham he scrievit twa sangs, Now Westlin' Winds an I Dreamed I Lay.

At Whitsun, 1777, William Burness remuivit his muckle faimily frae the fashfou condeetions o Munt Oliphant fer the 130-acre ferm at Lochlea, near Tarbolton, qhaur they bydit until Burness' daith in 1784. Efterhaun, the faimily became integratit intae the community o Tarbolton. Tae his faither's disapproval Robert jyned a kintra dancin schuil in 1779, an wi Gilbert shappit the Tarbolton Bachelor's Club the follaein year. In 1781, Burns became a Freemason at Lodge St. David, Tarbolton. His earliest existin letters date frae this time, whan be begoud makkin romantic overtures tae Alison Begbie. Despite fower sangs screived for her, an a suggestion that he wis wullin tae wad her, she rejectit him.

In December 1781, Burns flittit for a wee tae Irvine tae leir tae become a flax-dresser, but durin the Hogmanay celebrations o 1781/2, the flax shap caucht fire an wis daimiged eneuch tae send him hame tae Lochlea ferm.

He cairriet on screivin poems an sangs an begoud a Commonplace Beuk in 1783, while his faither focht a legal argie-bargie wi his landlaird. The case gaed tae the Coort o Session an Burness wis uphaudit in Januar 1784, a fortnicht ere he dee'd. Robert an Gilbert made an ineffectual strauchle tae keip on the ferm but efter it failt, thay flittit tae the ferm at Mossgiel, near Mauchline in Mairch, that thay haudit on tae wi a sair fecht for the neist fower year. Durin the simmer o 1784 he cam tae ken a curn o lassies kent thegither as The Belles o Mauchline, ane o wham wis Jean Armour, the dochter o a stanemason frae Mauchline.

Burns' casual luve affairs an houghmagandie didna endear him tae the elders o the local kirk an creatit for him a name for dissolution amang his neebours. His first illegitimate bairn, Elizabeth Paton Burns (1785-1817) wis born tae his mithir's servand, Elizabeth Paton as he wis stairtin oot on a relationship wi Jean Armour. She buir him twins in 1786, an tho her faither wis agin thair mairrage at first, thay wis wad in 1788. She buir him nine bairns in aw, but ainlie thrie won past infancy.

Durin his relationship wi Jean Armour in 1786 an as his prospecks in fermin dwynit, he begoud an amour wi Mary Campbell, tae wham he dedicatit the poems The Highland Lassie, O, Highland Mary an To Mary in Heaven. Thair relationship haes been the subjeck o muckle jalousin an it haes been suggestit that thay micht hae wad. Thay ettled tae flit tae Jamaicae, qhaur Burns ettled tae wark as a beuk-keeper on a plantation. He wis dissuadit by a letter frae Thomas Blacklock, an ere the plans coud be actit upo, Campbell dee'd o a suddentie o a fever in Greenock. That simmer, he set furth the first o his collections o poesy, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, that creatit a sensation an haes been recognisit as a signeeficact leeterar event.

Leeterar career

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Statue o Burns in Central Pairk, NYC

At the suggestion o his brither, Robert Burns set furth his poems in a buik cawed Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect kent as the Kilmarnock Edition an aw. First proposals wis pitten oot in Apryle 1786 or the poems wis at lang an last setten furth in Kilmarnock in July 1786 an selt for 3 shillin. Brocht oot by John Wilson, a local prenter in Kilmarnock it haed muckle o Burns' best screivans, includin The Twa Dogs, Address to the Deil, Hallowe'en, The Cotter's Saturday Night, To a Mouse, an To a Mountain Daisy - mony o qhilk haed been scrieved at Mossgiel ferm. The wark wis a speed straucht awa an Burns wis suin weel kent athort the kintra.

He wis inveetit tae Edinburgh on 14t December 1786 tae owersee the preperation o a reveesit edeetion, the first Edinburgh edeetion, by William Creech, that wis finally setten furth on 17t Apryle 1787 (athin ae week o this, Burns selt his copyricht tae Creech fer 100 guineas). In Edinburgh, he wis taen in as an equal by the ceety's weel kent leeterati an wis a guest at upper-cless gaitherins, qhaur he buir himsel wi unaffecktit mense. Here he met wi, an made a lastin impression on, the 16-year auld Walter Scott that later descrievit him wi great admiration:

"His person wis strang an robust; his mainers landwart, nae clounish, a sort o mensfu plainness an simpleecity that aiblins teuk in pairt o its effect frae knawledge o his stoundin talents. His featurs is presentit in Mr. Nasmyth's pictur but tae me is gies ower the norrie that they wis dimeenshed, as if saw in perspective. I jalouse his countenance wis mair muckle nae it kythes in ony o the limns...thare wis a strang expression o cannyness in aw his lineaments; the ee alane, I dout, indicatit the makarly chairacter an temperment. It wis lairge, an o a daurk cast, an leeterally glowed whan he spak wi feelin or intrest. I ne'er saw anither sic ee in a human heid, tho I hae seen the maist kenspeckle chiels o ma time."

His stay in the ceety resultit in some life-lang freendships, amang whilk wis thaim wi Laird Glencairn an Frances Anna Dunlop, that wis whiles his sponsor, wha wi he correspondit for the lave o his life. He begoud a relationship wi the seperatit Agnes 'Nancy' McLehose, wi whit he exchynged passionate luve letters unner bynames (Burns cawed himsel 'Sylvander' an Nancy 'Clarinda'). Whan it became clear that Nancy wadna be easily wooed intae a pheesical relationship, Burns muived on tae Jenny Clow, Nancy's hoose-servand, that buir him a son, Robert Burns Clow in 1788. His relationship wi Nancy endit in 1791 wi a hintmaist meetin in Edinburgh afore she sailt tae Jamaica for whit transpired tae be a short-lived reconcilin wi her estrynged guidman. Ere she quat Scotland, he gied her the manuscript o Ae Fond Kiss, as a fareweel tae her.

In Edinburgh in the winter o 1787 he met wi James Johnson, a strauchlin muisic engraver an muisic seller, wi a luve o auld Scots sangs an a determination tae preserve thaim. Burns skared this intrest an became an enthusiastic contreebutor tae The Scots Musical Museum. The first vollum o this wis setten furth in 1787 an includit three sangs by Burns. He contributit fowerty sangs tae Vollum II, an wad end up sponsible for aboot a third o the sax hunder sangs in the hail ingaitherin as weel as makkin a conseederable editorial contreebution. The hintmaist vollum wis setten furth in 1803.

Whan he retoured tae Ayrshire on 18t Februar 1788, he resumed his relationship wi Jean Armour an teuk a lease on the ferm o Ellisland near Dumfries on 18t Mairch (settlin there on 11t Juin), but trained as an exciseman shoud fermin conteena tae pruive unsuccessfu. He wis appyntit duties in Customs an Excise in 1789, an gied up the ferm in 1791. Meanwhile, he wis aye scrievin awa at his best, an in November 1790 haed feenisht Tam O' Shanter. Aboot this time he wis offered an turnt doun an appyntment in Lunnon on the staff o the Star newspaper, an refuised tae become a canditate for a newly-creatit Chair o Agricultur in the Varsity o Edinburgh, awtho influential freends offert tae uphaud his claims. Efter giein up his ferm he flittit tae Dumfries.

It wis at this time that, bein aksed tae scrieve leerics for The Melodies of Scotland, he respondit by contreebutin ower 100 sangs. He made major contreebutions tae George Thomson's A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice as weel as tae James Johnson's The Scots Musical Museum. Argiably his claim tae immortality chiefly rests on thir vollums that pit him in the front raing o leeric makars. Burns descrieved hou he haed tae maister the tuin or he componed the wirds:

"Ma wey is: A conseeder the makarly sentiment, correspondent tae ma norrie o the muisical expression, syne wale ma theme, begin ae stanza, whan thon is componed -that's for ordinar the maist fykie pairt o the business- A walk oot, sit doun nou an than, leuk oot for objects in naitur aboot me that's in unison or hairmony wi the cogitations o ma fancy an wirkins o ma bosom, hummin ilka nou an than the air wi the verses I hae framed. Whan I feel ma Muse beginnin tae jaud, I retire tae the solitar ingle-side o ma study, an there pit ma effuisions doun on paper, sweengin, at intervals, on the hint-legs o ma elbae cheer, by wey o cawin furth ma ain creetical stricturs, as ma pen gaes."

Burns wrocht tae gaither an preserve auld Scots fowk sangs an aw, whiles revisin, eikin tae an adaptin thaim. Ane o the better kent o thair gaitherins is The Merry Muses of Caledonia (the title's no Burns'), an ingaitherin o clarty leerics that wis kenspeckle in the muisic haws o Scotland as late as the 20t century. Mony o Burns' maist fawmous poems is sangs wi the muisic based upo aulder tradeetional sangs, for ensaumple Auld Lang Syne is setten tae a tradeetional tuin cawed Can Ye Labour Lea", A Red, Red Rose is setten tae Major Graham an The Battle of Sherramuir is setten tae The Cameronian Rant.

Leeterar style

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Statue o Burns in Dumfries.

Burns' direct leeterar influences in the uise o Scots in poesy wis Allan Ramsay an Robert Fergusson. Burns' wark teuk tift frae a guid kennin o Clessical, Biblical an Inglis leeteratur an aw, as weel as the Scots makar tradeetion an the fowk poetry that he kent frae his bairnheid.
He wis skeily in uissin Scots an Scots Inglis, aften a mixter-maxter o the twa. Writtin in the Inglis leid or in a "licht" by-leid version o Scots gied him a readership furth o Scotland, alloued him tae chynge frae ane till anither for effect (as in his uise o Inglis for the "moralisin" pairts o Tam O' Shanter) or gin he wis needin the rhyme.

His themes includit Republicanism (he livit durin the time o the French Revolution) an Radicalism, that expressit in Scots Wha Hae, Scots paitriotism, anticlericism, cless inequalities, gender roles, commentary on the Scots Kirk o his time, Scots cultural identity, puirtith, sexuality an the guid side o popular socialisin (carousin, whisky, fowk sangs etc.). Burns an his warks wis a source o inspiration tae the pioneers o leeberalism, socialism an the darg for Scots sel-govrenment, an he is still widely respectit an aften quotit by poleetical activists the day, e'en by conservatives an estaiblishment feegurs acause syne his daith, Burns became drawn intae the fabric o Scots naitional identity. Aiblins it is this abeelity tae appeal tae aw strines o poleetical opeenion in Scotland that haes led tae him bein widely saw as the naitional makar.

He is for ordinar cawed a proto-Romantic poet, an he gied muckle tift tae William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge an Percy Bysshe Shelley. The Edinburgh literati warked tae sentimentalise Burns durin his life an efter his daith, dismissin his eddication by cawin him a "heiven-teachit pleuchman". Burns wad influence later Scots screivers, speicially Hugh MacDiarmid that fechtit tae brak doun the sentimental cult that dominatit Scots leeteratur in MacDiarmid's opeenion.

Maist kent poems

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Here are the maist kent poems o Robert Burns:

Hinmaist years

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As his heil begoud tae gie wey Burns stairtit tae age early an fawed intae fits o dule. His drinkin habits didna help this, an in July 21, 1796 he dee'd at Dumfries at the young eild o 37. He wis yirdit fower day efter, the samin day that his son Maxwell wis born. A memorial edeetion o his warks wis set furth tae raise siller for his guidwife an bairns, an athin a wee time efter his daith, siller cam in frae athort Scotland tae support thaim.

Robert Burns bi Ewan MacColl

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The fowksangster Ewan MacColl sang a lot o sangs bi Robert Burns on a record cried Songs of Robert Burns.

See forby

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